Bonnies women break into AP poll ranked 25th

JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer Published:

St. Bonaventure women's basketball coach Jim Crowley knew his team couldn't fly under the radar forever.

"I guess our kids are doing a great job of making sure that people can't not notice us," Crowley said with a chuckle on Monday.

The Atlantic 10 Conference-leading Bonnies (22-2, 9-0) became harder to ignore Monday after breaking into the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history. St. Bonaventure came in ranked 25th -- moving up one spot from the previous week -- after receiving votes on 31 of 40 ballots to earn 82 points.

Though Crowley's focus remains on preparing his team for its next game Wednesday at Massachusetts, he couldn't help but take a brief moment to appreciate what this means for St. Bonaventure and his players.

"The ranking is a great piece of national recognition that our players have worked extremely hard to achieve," Crowley said. "I am certainly smart enough to know what's going on with this team, and it's not something that happens very often."

It's so rare that the last time the St. Bonaventure men were ranked was January 1971, a year before the Bonnies women played their first game.

History aside, a national ranking doesn't mean it's time for Crowley or his players to start letting up.

"Obviously, it's my job and all of our jobs within the program to make sure we maintain what's got us here," Crowley said. "We're pretty good about making sure we're focused on what's in front of us. And what's most important right now is UMass."

Coming off an 80-69 win over George Washington on Saturday, the Bonnies have won 11 straight, to match a school record. Their 22 wins are one short of matching a season mark set in both the 2008-09, and 2009-10.

From a national perspective, the Bonnies' 22 wins rank third in the nation behind only No. 1 Baylor (23-0) and No. 2 Notre Dame (23-1).

St. Bonaventure hasn't lost since a 55-44 defeat to Villanova at the Monmouth University Hawks Holiday Classic on Dec. 29. The Bonnies only other loss came against No. 12 Delaware in late November.

The Bonnies are in contention to win their first A-10 regular-season title, while also seeking their first NCAA tournament berth.

"We're kind of excited, but at the same time, we know we still have to take it one game at a time," senior guard Jessica Jenkins of the Bonnies being ranked. "It's nice, but I think it'll be nicer at the end of the year."

Led by Jenkins' 15.6 points a game, the Bonnies possess a balanced attack that features seven players averaging 7 points a game or better.

It's a group that includes senior forward Megan Van Tatenhove, who is averaging 11.9 points and a team-best 5.9 rebounds.

The Bonnies have so much depth that they've had seven players lead the team in scoring, and five players lead the team in rebounding this season.

"I think it's a group that's fully bought into the only way we can garner any success is what we do as a group," Crowley said. "It doesn't matter how many minutes someone plays or how many points someone gets, it matters when the final horn sounds that everybody feels OK because of the group result."

Crowley is in his 12th season as the Bonnies head coach, and still remembers the growing pains his program endured. It wasn't until his seventh year at St. Bonaventure, in 2006-07, when he enjoyed his first winning season (16-15). The Bonnies have gone 107-49 since, a stretch that's featured three consecutive WNIT berths.

The losing years are enough of a reminder to keep him motivated.

"While none of the players in our program now know anything but a lot of winning, I certainly know the other side of it," Crowley said. "Keep on plugging. We're fortunate to have the kids we have."